This past week, I watched a fifth grade student organize about a dozen sharpened #2 pencils with great precision. I smiled to myself, thinking back to the days when I, too, would sharpen each and every one of my pencils to a lethal point. It was if the beginning of the school year would require me to write till each one was dull. Though that was never the case, there was something wonderful about seeing the possibilities in those sharpened pencils.
Then there were the notebooks. I loved the brand new, unblemished notebooks. I dreamed of perfect notes with no crossouts and with notes that held the critical information that would result in fabulous grades. Those empty pages were intimidating. As soon as I placed one of those perfect pencils on the page, my notebooks lost their allure. It was too easy to misspell a word or to forget Roman numeral III.
As I reflect on those days, I wish that someone had helped me see that the sharpened pencils had erasers and that pristine notebooks were designed for brilliant thoughts and lousy mistakes. Both can co-exist. So, for each student, I wish you sharp pencils that quickly dull but can be resharpened with just a little attention and a crisp new notebook that will hold wisdom and a few doodles.
Today’s 70˚ weather summoned me outdoors to do my paperwork. It certainly would have been more efficient to sit at a table, but I just could not resist the sun-filled sky. Sitting on our deck, I rolled up my pants, pushed up my sleeves, and lifted my head to gaze at the sun and soak in its warmth. Within minutes, I could feel the tension begin to fade away. With Diet Coke in hand, I sat and did nothing. The paperwork remained untouched. For an unknown amount of time, I relished the quiet moments of reflection.
What did I do? I thought about my daughter who was supposed to be napping. I thought about the sermon I heard a few hours earlier. I thought about the upcoming week. And I just sat. I didn’t solve any large problems. I didn’t write a poem or create anything. For someone who usually marks her days by levels of productivity, this afternoon was somewhat of an anomaly. It could, I suppose, be seen as a great waste of time.
Reflection. Quiet. Time away from a “to do” list. I wonder what my day or a student’s day would be like if we had time – with or without sun – to sit and reflect. Renewal. Peace. Maybe only a little more joy.
If today’s time in the sun is any measure of its value, then I say bring it on!
Standing outside for carpool at the end of Grand Day, I was struck with the incredible sights around me. The blue sky served as the perfect backdrop for the stunning red-leafed tree in front of me. The sun shone brightly, warming the day to a near perfect temperature for November. In the midst of this glorious day, children and their grandparents and special friends shared time together. Some built turkeys out of apples and candy. Others interviewed their treasured guests about their lives. Watching them walk hand in hand, I was struck with yet one more beautiful scene on this day.
I couldn’t help but be a bit jealous of these children. Sadly, my grandparents are no longer living. My days of asking questions or sharing sweet moments with them are over. Precious memories of them quickly rose to the surface. Drinking freshly squeezed orange juice from oranges picked outside my grandparents’ Florida home. Eating at the “kids’ table” on holidays in their kitchen in New York. Riding a snowmobile in frigid weather wondering if I would fall off as we flew down the hills. Learning to sew at ten years old under the watchful eye of my Grandma during the summer. Playing Uno around her table. Stopping for orange pineapple ice cream after a trip into town.
On this gorgeous day, I enjoyed viewing tender moments and reliving lovely memories. It was surely a grand day of beauty.
I traveled to Syracuse, New York, last week to to share some workshops with a group of lower school faculty. I attended this school from third grade through 12th grade. Stepping back on this campus, my mind, emotions, and senses were in high gear! This independent school made learning fun and taught me that I mattered as a learner and as a person. The school has changed since I attended in the Dark Ages. The faculty are new, buildings have been built, and classrooms have moved, but the memories of my time there were crystal clear.
I looked in the music room that used to be my third grade classroom. I remembered Mrs. Johnson’s candy jar and the purple desk for the VIP student. In that room, I learned to have fun with learning. I walked in the art room and the smells transported me back to the days in which I tried rather unsuccessfully to form clay into something recognizable. I learned that art was not my gift, but I marveled at those whose gift it was. The soccer fields seemed so much smaller than I recalled, but the teamwork that occurred on those fields taught me that though you don’t always win, what you do in practice and a game matters. Though I knew that I loved the school, my visit reminded me of the power of one little school on a young girl so many years ago. Manlius Pebble Hill School shaped who I would become.
Our graduates frequently return to Trinity School and search for familiar faces of friends and of beloved teachers. Though changes are inevitable, the heart and soul remain the same. They talk about the interactive activities, the teachers they adore, and the funny stories of their past. Remembering the past, they will smile. I know I did.